Welcome to another Sitcom Tuesday! Today we’re continuing with the best episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. This is my favorite sitcom of the 1960s and every single episode is available on DVD (and Netflix)!
Rob Petrie, a lovable TV comedy writer has his hands full at work, contending with Buddy and Sally, two larger-than-life writing partners. (Not to mention a spineless producer and an egomaniacal star.) Then Rob goes home to his quirky wife, Laura, an adorable son, Ritchie, and a pair of eccentric neighbors.
The Dick Van Dyke Show stars DICK VAN DYKE as Rob Petrie, MARY TYLER MOORE as Laura Petrie, ROSE MARIE as Sally Rogers, MOREY AMSTERDAM as Buddy Sorrell, LARRY MATHEWS as Ritchie Petrie, RICHARD DEACON as Mel Cooley, ANN MORGAN GUILBERT as Millie Helper, JERRY PARIS as Jerry Helper, and CARL REINER as Alan Brady.
Still the best comedy on television, The Dick Van Dyke Show’s fourth season was an unquestionable success. Adding several more installments to the pantheon of classic sitcom episodes, the series continued to churn out incredibly funny, original, and sophisticated stories. Comparatively, I don’t think Season Four is as strong as Season Three, and the line between “home episodes” and “work episodes” grows much more divisive this year. The only one who gets plenty to do is, of course, Dick Van Dyke! But with Ann Morgan Guilbert appearing more frequently, and Carl Reiner finally giving a face to Alan Brady, we have another excellent year of situation comedy! I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a great place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Four. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)
01) Episode 96: “The Ghost Of A. Chantz” (Aired: 09/30/64 | Filmed: 08/11/64)
Rob, Laura, Sally, and Buddy spend a harrowing night in a haunted cabin.
Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 097
This classic episode, a parody of Candid Camera, is one of the most consistently funny shows of the season. Episodes that bring all four stars together in the same room have a higher chance of succeeding, and this one takes that even further with a unique premise and many incredibly funny moments. Highly memorable installment.
02) Episode 101: “4 1/2” (Aired: 11/04/64 | Filmed: 09/15/64)
Rob recalls the time that he and a pregnant Laura were trapped in an elevator with a hold-up man.
Written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 102
I’ve always been a fan of Don Rickles, and his appearance in TDVDS is no exception. Here we have two sitcom tropes combined — stuck in an elevator (even done in TV’s first American sitcom, Mary Kay And Johnny) and held up by a crook (played, naturally, by Rickles) — but the writers are so adept at making it seem fresh. One thing I’ll say though — that was one BIG elevator.
03) Episode 102: “The Alan Brady Show Goes To Jail” (Aired: 11/11/64 | Filmed: 09/22/64)
When The Alan Brady Show writers entertain at a prison, Rob gets locked up with the inmates.
Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 103
This is actually the second of two parts, as Rob and the gang go to entertain at the prison in which Don Rickles resides. I normally don’t think musical episodes are worthy of consideration alongside 100% comedy episodes, but this one uses both symbiotically. As another of the series’ most memorable episodes, this a very entertaining half-hour. (See a clip of Rose Marie at the bottom of this list.)
04) Episode 104: “Pink Pills And Purple Parents” (Aired: 11/25/64 | Filmed: 10/20/64)
Rob recalls the time when Laura first met his parents and got high off of tranquilizers.
Written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson | Directed by Alan Rafkin | Production No. 106
This is actually one of my favorite flashback episodes because Mary gets to act incredibly loopy on those blasted pink pills (to comic perfection, I might add). There are so many excellent bits with Laura and Rob’s parents that I just didn’t want the episode to end. I wish there was more Buddy and Sally, but I appreciate that they were used in the wraparound segments.
05) Episode 110: “The Impractical Joke” (Aired: 01/13/65 | Filmed: 11/10/64)
Rob resorts to psychological warfare to get even with practical joker, Buddy.
Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 109
It’s not an unfamiliar bit — practical joking warfare. Adding the twist of getting the joker back through psychological torments rather than actual pranks isn’t new either. Furthermore, the idea of using the IRS as a comedic complication (usually the one meeting with the IRS thinks the agent is a phony and thus makes a fool of himself) has been done before. But this episode just offers plenty of laughs. Though the stuff that proceeds with Buddy in the office is great, the opening scene with the prank call is the highlight.
06) Episode 115: “The Case Of The Pillow” (Aired: 02/17/65 | Filmed: 12/22/64)
Rob becomes a lawyer to prosecute a shifty salesman who sold Laura pillows that smelled liked chickens.
Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff | Directed by Howard Morris | Production No. 115
I’ll be honest with you: courtrooms and sitcoms are an overdone combination. They were overdone in the ’50s. But this episode, which was actually inspired by a true story, has such a bizarrely funny premise — pillows that were made with inferior feathers, and to be specific, chicken feathers — that elevates everything to the realm of excellent silliness. The party where the guests smell the pillows is hilarious.
07) Episode 121: “Never Bathe On Sunday” (Aired: 03/31/65 | Filmed: 02/16/65)
On their second honeymoon, Laura gets her toe stuck in the bathtub faucet.
Written by Carl Reiner | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 121
This is another one of those episodes that has gone down in television history, even winning the series another Emmy Award. Yet, I’ve found that some fans actually don’t like this one. I USED to be in that camp, but I’ve since come to appreciate the originality of the storytelling. I miss Buddy and Sally, but Van Dyke more than compensates. From his fake mustache to his attempts to break down the door, he shines. If it’s not the greatest episode, this is, at least, a very good one.
08) Episode 123: “Baby Fat” (Aired: 04/21/65 | Filmed: 03/16/65)
At Alan’s behest, Rob agrees to ghostwrite a famous playwright’s new comedy.
Written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 124
I like Reiner, but a little Alan Brady goes a long way. One of Reiner’s personal favorites, this script actually works for me IN SPITE of his large presence. This series, with sharp dialogue and zany slapstick, rarely goes farcical like Our Miss Brooks or Three’s Company. So I like that this episode takes the series into that genre — with Brady passing Rob off as his tailor. It’s very funny. And the parody of Tennessee Williams is killer.
09) Episode 124: “100 Terrible Hours” (Aired: 05/05/65 | Filmed: 03/02/65)
Rob recalls the time his interview with Alan Brady was nearly jeopardized by a keep-awake radio marathon.
Written by Bill Persky and Sam Denoff | Directed by Theodore J. Flicker | Production No. 122
There were too many flashback episodes this season, and too many of them didn’t utilize Buddy or Sally. However, most of them, especially “100 Terrible Hours,” give Van Dyke some excellent solo stuff to do, which is always welcome. He makes this episode worthwhile as Rob’s determination to stay awake 100 hours on the radio is both captivating and unpredictable. The man is a master of physical comedy.
10) Episode 125: “Br-rooom, Br-rooom” (Aired: 05/12/65 | Filmed: 03/23/65)
To Laura’s chagrin, Rob purchases a motorcycle and gets himself into trouble.
Written by Dale McRaven and Carl Kleinschmitt | Directed by Jerry Paris | Production No. 125
I thought this episode, which again gives Van Dyke large chunks of physical comedy, actually had a pretty sharp script. The dialogue between Rob and Laura is particularly funny and truthful, and I laughed-out-loud frequently. The final gag with Sally is superb, and this is one of the more memorable episodes of the season.
This season had a handful of excellent episodes and a whole slew of really good ones. So I had to pick and choose which really good episodes to include among the handful of excellent episodes. These unfortunate installments are really good, but didn’t make the cut: “My Mother Can Beat Up My Father,” which uses a plot we’ve since seen very often in other sitcoms, “Three Letters From One Wife,” which introduces Reiner as the face of Alan Brady, “The Redcoats Are Coming,” which spoofs the popularity of The Beatles, “Anthony Stone,” in which all four stars get ample material when Sally dates a married mortician, “Show Of Hands,” which would have made my list except for an unfunny payoff, and, “There’s No Sale Like Wholesale,” which again features some mild farce and utilizes the ensemble well.
Here’s a clip of the wonderful Rose Marie from “The Alan Brady Show Goes To Jail,” one of the episodes I selected as the best from Season Four.
Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Five! And remember to tune in tomorrow for a Wildcard Wednesday post!